Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: 20 years feels like yesterday

Time can slip by carrying memories still as fresh as yesterday.

It is fascinating how expansive periods of time can slip by carrying memories still as fresh as yesterday.

Journal entry July 2003.

The first day of summer made its entrance snuggled in a blanket of warm overcast skies.

As we walked to the beach, scattered raindrops fell around us seeking sanctuary beneath layers of weather polished stones.

The wind remained unfazed by the new season’s intrusion and refused to awaken and stretch itself across the bay. Thus, the waves slumbered late allowing mirrored reflections of glaciers rather than the intricate dance of white caps on a relentless sea.

Mom loved these quiet Alaskan mornings where the only sounds floating skyward were the calls of common loons crying out in search of an echo.

She and I had visited this special shoreline 10 years ago when she brought my father’s ashes back to the land he loved so much. It was here that his symbolic journey began upon an outgoing tide while eagles swept low as if in a salute to a departing warrior.

She returned to Washington and a core of loved ones where family reunions still had four generations sharing highland campgrounds and ancestral stories late into the eve. It was a place where the young brought excitement and pride to the clan and elders were held in esteem.

As the river of time slowly drifted us toward our own finales, we often spoke about her desire to relive that singular moment at the sand’s end.

Unfortunately, the ravages of arthritis escorted by ancillary maladies kept preempting her return thus we began turning our conversations more toward the family news and times gone by.

As she spoke, the world raced backward and I was once again a child listening with rapt attention as tales unfolded encompassing everything from a hard-scrabbled farm life to the tribulations associated with World War Two. I could only marvel at the steel persona and the sacrifices made by those struggling through such a challenging epoch.

She had a wonderful way of replaying her life even though I thought it would have been nice if she would have done a bit more editing on some of my numerous and embarrassing youthful indiscretions. Why is it that a mother can remember every scratch, bruise, and stitch that you’ve suffered along with the dim-witted thing you were doing to incur it? I could have turned some interesting scars into valiant tales if it hadn’t been for her absolute recall and admonitions to tell the truth.

If a mother’s love could be woven into gold, my sister, Vicki, and I would have been given flowing cloaks that would have humbled our nation’s coffer. Her deep affection for kith and kin taught us moral principles while her heart helped light the way during our troubling times.

There were no fancy cars, upscale houses nor trips around the world in mom’s domain but she was blessed the unequalled treasure of a devoted husband and children who supported her hopes, dreams, and quest for happiness.

I shared these thoughts with her during visits and a myriad of phones calls throughout the years. Calls that were not just relegated to, “Reach out and touch someone,” on Mother’s Day. Calls that were meant to say how much she meant to me. Calls to say thanks for being there. Calls to share happiness. Calls to share grief. Calls just to hear her voice and say, “I love you.” Calls to share her pains when she was so ill. The last call to say I was coming.

I said nothing as I stepped into the outgoing tide because nothing had been left unsaid. I walked alone with only her soul beside me. Instead of her hand, I held her ashes as she waited to rejoin the love of her life of more than 50 years.

As I stopped, I sensed him with us. I felt a comforting peace and saw his smile reflected in the sparkling waves as I tenderly guided her into his embrace.

They were home and so was I.

In memory of Nina S. Varney.

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